The practice of police strip-searching children as young as eight has caused deep concern among civil rights advocates, who call for an end to the controversial practice. Strip searches are intrusive and highly invasive searches that involve removing a person’s clothing to look for illegal items or contraband. According to research from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Australian police conducted more than 118,000 strip searches of children between 2011 and 2018.
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Child welfare organisations argue that this type of search can cause long-lasting psychological damage in minors due to its traumatic nature. Exile International Australia says that “strip-searching is damaging for children who may feel violated, embarrassed or ashamed. It can also be a traumatic experience that may take years to recover from”.
In response to the controversy, New South Wales and Victoria governments have announced sweeping changes to strip-search laws that prohibit police officers from searching children under 18 without parental permission or court orders, except in extreme circumstances. The new legislation also limits strip searches of adults aged 18 to 29 if they are not suspected of committing an indictable offence.
These moves towards reform are encouraging for advocates of civil liberties. However, further progress must be made to protect vulnerable individuals from intrusive searches such as strip searches. Authorities must keep children safe while ensuring their rights and dignity are respected during the investigation. Protecting children and preventing psychological harm should be at the forefront of all decisions regarding police strip-searching.
Additionally, authorities must also focus on increasing awareness and understanding of the implications of strip searches to ensure that such practices are only carried out in the most extreme and necessary circumstances. With these changes, we can move towards a society that values human rights over law enforcement needs.
The debate surrounding police strip searches has sparked conversations about how public safety intersects with individual rights and civil liberties. We must consider both sides when deciding how to tackle crime and protect vulnerable individuals from unnecessary or intrusive searches.
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